Tuesday, June 1, 2010

TARPS - Blessing or Curse?

(Note: This was written in early May, 2010.)

Beginning in January, my husband and I have had no choice but to use the TARPS bus system to get to his classes at Lourdes College. We can't afford a van to transport his electric wheelchair, so here we are, setting up pick-up times a week ahead.

First is that TARPS allows 15 minutes leeway on either side of the pick-up time. You have to be ready 15 minutes ahead, but you may be waiting a total of 30 + minutes before they arrive. This is something that, although a small pain, can be tolerated.

Then you have to allow up to 1 ½ hours travel time. That's right folks, you can be riding around Toledo for over an hour before you get to your destination. Now, I understand that the reasoning is to accommodate other riders and trying to consolidate trips, but wow, this is tiring, especially for my husband who spends the majority of his time in the wheelchair.

One driver took surface streets all the way from Rossford to Sylvania because she had plenty of time before her next pickup. Horrible – the streets were potholed and pitted, making for a very bumpy, uncomfortable ride. And because it took an hour, we missed a potential math session with a tutor. We don't want a tour of Toledo, folks, we want to get to our destination.

And then there's the older buses... number 18 is notoriously awful. My husband said if it shows up at our door, he will refuse to ride. We were on a return trip home, when the old, outdated tie-downs didn't hold and his chair slid toward the windows. Fortunately, he wasn't injured. Number 29 was so noisy, with ramp and windows rattling that I was amazed the bus driver could hear anything over the racket. Then the shock absorbers were non-existent. Every time we hit a bump or pothole I thought my teeth would pop out of my head.

From January through March, we didn't have many problems. But now that the weather has warmed up and more people are riding, we're encountering some trouble. It seems to be mostly with the scheduling. Last week they changed our pick-up time at the college without letting us know. And instead of pushing it 30 minutes later, they pushed it 30 minutes back – when we weren't out of class yet! When we called after they didn't show at the scheduled time, they told us that the 5pm time “wasn't available” and so they moved it to 4:30pm... what?? The time was certainly available a week ago when we scheduled it!! So we had to wait another 30 minutes for another bus to come out to get us.

Now today (don't forget that we call a week ahead to schedule our time), Larry called to check the pick-up time and it was way off from what we had planned, like 30 minutes off. This was blamed on a computer glitch and/or the time we had scheduled now was no longer available. He said he will try to get the driver out earlier, but here we sit, not knowing when we will get picked up. And Larry has two tests to take starting at 1:30. We're just hoping to make it to the campus in time to take the tests.

Sheesh.... come on! Why aren't we being notified when they change our schedule times?

Granted, without TARPS, I don't even know if Larry would be able to go to school and usually they are on schedule with no problems. The drivers are friendly to us and a few even go out of their way assisting us, like the one that helped Larry with his wheelchair.

But they really need to try to do better with the scheduling. We were told that they're trying out a call-back system before a pick-up to be sure the rider is ready to go and let them know the bus is on the way. Hopefully, this would help cut back on no-shows and wasted trips.

I think managers should be required to ride every bus in service at least once a year. Maybe then older buses would be retired and we would get a much more comfortable ride, especially if we have to drive around Toledo for over an hour.

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